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Special Mission Program - PM2
Special Mission Support Force - PM2

Military Sealift Command operates 27 ships in the Special Missions Program. These ships provide operating platforms and services for unique U.S. military and federal government missions. Ships include: oceanographic and hydrographic survey ships, a cable-laying ship, missile range instrumentation ships, ocean surveillance ships, counterdrug ships and some chartered vessels for unique U.S. government operations, including deep water search and rescue missions and Navy submarine test support escort.

Most Special Missions ships are crewed by civilian mariners employed by companies under contract to MSC; a few of the ships are crewed by civil service mariners. Technical work, research and communications are conducted by embarked military personnel, including civilian scientists and related technicians.

The Special Mission Support Force carries out a variety of highly specialized missions, including acoustic trials, navigation system testing, missile tracking, oceanographic and hydrographic surveys, and cable laying and repairing.

The Special Mission Support Force consists of missile instrumentation ships, oceanographic research ships, hydrographic survey ships, cable laying and repair ships, and one acoustical research ship. Research areas include underwater sound, acoustical phenomena, marine biology and the ocean. The force also carries out a variety of highly specialized missions, including oceanographic and hydrographic surveys, cable laying and repairing.

Missile range instrumentation ships monitor missile launches to collect data which can be used to improve efficiency and accuracy.

Oceanographic research and hydrographic survey ships are used to study the ocean environment. The research helps to improve technology in undersea warfare and enemy ship detection. The oceanographic research and hydrographic survey ships' multi-beam, wide-angle precision sonar systems permit continuous charting of a broad strip of ocean floor.

Two hydrographic survey ships, USNS Chauvenet and USNS Harkness conducted coastal survey operations in support of the Persian Gulf war.

The newest hydrographic survey ships in the Special Mission Support Force, USNS Littlehales and USNS John McDonnell, are 208 feet long and able to maintain a speed of 12 knots.

The force's acoustical research ship, USNS Glover, conducts tests for sonar, radar and electronic devices. The ship also gathers acoustical data in support of the anti-submarine warfare program.

Currently, MSC operates two cable ships that transport, deploy, retrieve and repaid submarine cables. One of the two ships, USNS Zeus, was the first cable ship built specifically for the Navy. Zeus can lay up to 1,000 miles of cable in depths of 9,000 feet during a single deployment before having to restock her cable supply.

MSC coordinates ship logistics activities and vessel chartering requirements for U.S. government agencies, to include: Naval Oceanographic Office, Naval Sea Systems Command, Air Force 45th Space Wing, Strategic Systems Programs, and Naval Space and Warfare Systems Command.

MSC began operating Special Mission Support Force ships in 1958 with four ships. The original mission of these ships was to collect marine science data for the Navy and the scientific community.

The Special Mission Support Force represents the smallest component of MSC's three forces. All Special Mission Support Force ships are Navy-owned and are operated by civil service or contract mariner crews. Special mission support ships average 25 days at sea and five days in port each month.




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